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Transitioning to Competitive Play: How to Help Your Child

Sports are supposed to be fun. Right? That’s how they started out. Back when your child was in preschool or kindergarten those pint-sized athletic teams were all about getting some physical activity and having a good time. No one kept score, from the sidelines no one was screaming, “How could you miss that shot?” and no one was competing to be the best in the state. As your child grew and began getting more serious about sports, they wanted to transition into truly competitive play. How can you help your child make the move from “just for fun” to a more competitive-based type of play?

Time Commitment and Being Selective

It’s common for young children to try out different sports. Your child may have played soccer, softball, tennis, and basketball. And, that was just in one year. When it comes to moving from recreational to competitive play, your child needs to narrow down their focus. Yes, some kids do excel at a few sports. It’s not unheard of for a teen to play for the high school football team in the fall and then hit the wrestling mats in the winter. But, narrowing down the selection certainly makes it easier to focus.

When it comes to selecting a sport, your child needs to be aware of the time commitment. If they narrow down their focus to soccer and track, they might not have the time to pull double-duty during the same sporting season. Discuss which sport your child really wants to focus on and why. After that, take a look at the time commitment and make sure that there are no major conflicts. If there are considerable conflicts, take a look at what your child can shift around or juggle. In the event that nothing budges, ask your child to consider picking just one sport to really, truly focus on.

Support School

Focusing on competitive play often leaves little time for school work. Of course your child is still going to school during the day. But, they may not have as much time for after-school homework and they may also need to miss some school days (or partial days) for games, matches, tournaments and meets.

Help your child to create a steady schedule that incorporates both school work and practice times. Put a pen to paper (or go on your computer and create a spreadsheet) and write out the details. This should include blocks of practice/training time, study times, and game times. The rigor and regimen of athletic training translates into study time for many student-athletes. That means sports and school can work hand in hand to help keep your child on track and on schedule.

It’s possible that your child will be so excited to start real competitive play that they put schoolwork on the back burner. It’s understandable that the new, more in-depth, athletic endeavor is exciting. For your child, it’s much more interesting than algebra and English literature. But, you need to explain that school can’t slide. Set rules, making it clear that if the sport negatively affects your child’s grades, they’ll need to take a break.

New Rules

Back when sports were purely recreational your child could miss a practice (or a game) and it wasn’t really a big deal. Now that they’re on the travel team, made the school JV/Varsity squad or are on some other competitive team, things are different.

Participating in competitive sports (whether it’s as an individual or as part of a team) requires dedication, time, and commitment. Skipping out on practice to hang out with friends is not okay. Sit your child down and discuss what the team’s, coach’s or league’s rules are. For example, your child’s basketball coach has a rule that any participant who misses three practices (unless they’re pre-excused) is automatically out. Your athlete needs to understand that the coach means business and that they will enforce this rule.

Taking the next step to competitive play is a big deal. It shows that your child is focused and committed to the sport. The transition from a recreational sport to something more serious isn’t always easy. Even though it takes work, with your help and a little time, your child will succeed!

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5 Skills Your Child Will Learn By Playing Tennis

Tennis is a sport of a lifetime, you and your child will enjoy for years to come. If you are wondering if tennis would be the right fit for your child, here are 5 reasons you should sign your young athlete up for Tennis Camp today!

If you can see your future self quite happily sitting amongst royalty sipping champagne under the mediocre London sun whilst grinning proudly as your child takes home the Wimbledon trophy, then perhaps you should be encouraging your child to play tennis. This fast-paced sport is growing in popularity across the world as stars such as Federer and Serena Williams are inspiring a new generation to lift up their rackets and head out onto the court.

Aside from the obvious benefits of rubbing shoulders with the sporting elite and getting to boast to your friends about how your child has had to put up a bigger shelf to host all those trophies, there are plenty of reasons why your child will benefit from attending a tennis day camp this year. Here are just five of them:

1.  It Teaches Self Discipline

Unlike team sports, the focus of tennis is on the self. You can’t blame your teammates for a missed goal or a bad pass, you’re the only person on the court and it’s up to you as to how the game goes. If your child wants to do well, they’ll have to commit to working hard and training hard. Perfecting that serve is the ultimate lesson in self discipline and, with it, pride.

2.  It’s All About the Coordination

Tennis is a great way to improve your child’s hand-eye coordination. In fact, it’s good for all their fine motor skills. Your child will learn how to judge distance, strength, timing, as well as, mastering the skill of hitting a small ball with a racket. It sounds easy, but you try getting out on that court and see how many times you can beat Djokovic at the serve.

3.  It Teaches Sportsmanship

It might sound like a made up word, but sportsmanship is one of the most important skills you can teach your kid. Your child needs to learn how to win graciously as well as how to lose. Your child needs to learn how to compete fairly, how to lose with dignity and how to win whilst being respectful of their opponent’s feelings. Tennis will teach your child how to play fair, win with grace and lose with manners.

4.  It’s All About Strategy

Tennis is not an easy sport. You have to make a lot of decisions – and quickly. Your child will learn to think on their feet, react with their gut instinct and be flexible and responsive. Your child will learn when to play safe and when to take those all important risks. Tennis might look to the untrained eye like a simple game of back and forth, but it’s way more complicated than that. Your child will learn key analytical and problem solving skills.

5.  It’s Fun

What should kids be doing during the school vacation? Err, having fun. Isn’t that obvious? Tennis is a great way to achieve that goal. Your child will be learning new skills but, most importantly, they’ll be having fun with their friends. They’ll meet new people, get some exercise and feel proud of their achievements. There are few things more enjoyable in life than feeling proud of yourself.

Plus, you might one day get to share a bottle of champagne with The Queen. Maybe.

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Preparing for the 1st Camp

A family preparing to send a child to a ‘first ever’ summer camp will likely experience a lot of emotional peaks and valleys. For parents and children alike, there will be rushes of excitement and maybe even a twinge of uncertainty. Something new naturally creates a mixed bag of emotions. Once those timid thoughts are conquered by all the ‘positives’ a child is about to be a part of  camp, it’s time to get everything in order to make it a pleasant success.

It’s About the Children

Parents may have fond memories about summer camps they attended and may naturally want their children to attend the same camp. It may seem like a great idea, but it’s best to include the child in the overall decision of which camp they would like to attend.

Focusing on the current main interest of a child is a great place to start. Is it athletics? Is it academics? Is it drama? There are several camp options available for today’s youth. Giving the child a feeling of ‘ownership’ is a fantastic start to making the camp experience very rewarding.

Prepare the Child for Success

Verify with camp counselors what the child needs to bring to camp, what forms need to be signed (including any Legal Disclaimer or Health Form) prior to camp attendance. As for what the child brings or wears, ask specifics. Taking a child shopping for new sneakers and T-shirts may accelerate the excitement level of a child, but doing so when the camp suggest slightly worn clothes due to the nature of the camp (football, field hockey, e.g.) may turn out to be wasting money.

If camp activities are mainly outdoors a must-bring list should include:

  1. Sunscreen/sunblock
  2. Loose-fit clothing
  3. Proper footwear
  4. Change of socks/T-shirts

Other possible questions to ask:

  1. How are the children grouped? Age? Skill level?
  2. What steps are taken by the camp counselors to address discipline concerns?
  3. How does the camp address a discouraged first-time camper?

Timeliness

Parents need to arrive at drop-off/pick-up sites ahead of time. If there is a traffic tie-up, etc. have the camp phone number available to relay such a reason for a delay. Also, make certain the camp can easily access parents in the event of a child accident or illness.

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The Importance of Scheduling in Free Play

Today’s parents – and kids – are busy, busy, busy. There are schedules to be followed, clubs to be attended, and homework assignments to be completed. But free play is important too, so how can you schedule some in?

Being a parent isn’t easy. In fact, at times it can be downright difficult. You want the best for your kids, you want them to grow up happy and confident and you want them to look back on their childhood with a sense of wonder. Experts often stress the importance of free play, but how can you allow for it in the modern world?

When you’re busy ferrying your kids around their after-school activities and clubs, it can be almost impossible to find the time to spend doing nothing. If you work long hours and want to soak up as much time with your kids as possible, you may find the weekends fill up pretty quickly too.

The Benefits of Free Play

There are many benefits to letting your kids take the lead for a little bit. Free play means that kids are free to play whatever and however they want. There are no rules, they don’t have to play in a certain way, and they can change what they are doing as often as they like. Free play allows children to develop a sense of independence, to develop problem-solving skills, and to learn  valuable skills which prevent boredom. If done in a group, free play allows your child to hone their social skills, to learn about conflict resolution, and to perfect negotiation skills.

3 Tips for Scheduling in Free Play

Now you know why it’s important, let’s look at how exactly you can fit free play into your lives:

1. Make it Routine

It sounds almost counter-productive, doesn’t it? Scheduling in free play surely isn’t free play? After all, if it’s scheduled, it can’t really be free. Well, yes, actually, it can. And if the rest of your week runs to a tight schedule, you might need to schedule in free play. And that’s fine. By including free play as a part of your regular routine, you give this important activity the time and commitment necessary. You could schedule free play for a couple of hours on a weekend afternoon or take a night off from your commitments each week to indulge in some free play. Whenever you decide to do it, make it routine.

2. Do it with Friends

Kids love free play, they can get completely and utterly immersed in a totally made up world with their friends. And, whilst the kids are distracted, you can enjoy some time with your friends as well. You can be anywhere you want to be, a local park on a glorious summer day, bundled up in raincoats in a woodland forest in the pouring rain, or in the comfort of your own home. Let the kids go wild whilst you catch up with your friends. Time well spent.

3. Encourage it

Kids are easily distracted. You ask them to go outside and play, then stumble across them inside 30 minutes later engrossed in a game of pirates. It can be frustrating, but try to remember the benefits of free play. Of course, there is a time and a place for everything, and your new found love of free play is no excuse for being late for school. That said, however, if you have nowhere to be, allow your child to embrace free play.

Do your kids get to enjoy free play time each week?

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5 Things All Soccer Parents Have In Common

Being a soccer parent gives you magical powers to spot any other soccer parents within a 5k radius. Soccer parents are your community, they know what you’re going through and here’s how you find them.

It’s important to have parent friends who know what you’re going through. This is just as important when your kids are in middle school, as it is in those early newborn days when you’re covered in puke and busy changing diapers. As a soccer parent, you’ll need some soccer parent friends to support and celebrate with you. Being a soccer parent isn’t easy, in fact, it can be hard work. Other soccer parents know what you’re up against, they have the tips and tricks that could make your life easier, and they understand just how important those games are to you. Here are five things all soccer parents have in common:

1. Messy Cars

As a soccer parent, you have no chance of keeping your car clean. You spend so much time driving around in that thing, it’s pretty much your second home. Your kids eat their dinner in the car on the way home from practice, they kick off muddy boots as soon as they climb in, and you’re forever driving over muddy puddles on the way to the field. Look around the parking lot, if there’s another car as filled with Tupperware, covered with mud and stinking of sweaty feet as yours, you have found yourself a fellow soccer mom.

2. A Total Lack of Free Time

Ah, free time. Remember that? Remember when you used to enjoy sleep-ins on Sunday mornings instead of waking early to ferry your kids around for soccer games? Remember when you could spend your evenings watching TV instead of organizing sports kits and baking cookies for team fundraisers? Those days are long gone. If you see another parent who looks like they haven’t slept in years, has a to-do list trailing behind them on the floor, and is already running late for their next appointment, they might just be a soccer parent too.

3. The Ability to Create Healthy, Nutritious and Portable Dinners

When your kids are using their energy on the pitch, junk food won’t do. You might not get to enjoy quite as many sit down meals as the average family, but that doesn’t mean your kids suffer nutritionally. In fact, as a soccer parent, you know just how important it is that your kids eat right. You know how much protein they should be getting, how much energy they need and what the best fast-acting high-energy snacks are. And, in true soccer parent style, you can pack a healthy, balanced dinner into a Tupperware for your kid to enjoy in the car. It’s your soccer parent badge of honor and you can always spot a fellow soccer parent by how many pre-cooked and delicious family meals they have packed into Tupperware in the freezer.

4. A Hoarse Voice

Soccer parents are no strangers to cheering. You can spot your comrades easily at the grocery store after the weekend, they’re the individuals who are hoarse from shouting words of encouragement by the side of the field. You’ll see them but probably won’t be able to say hello because you lost your own voice after a particularly enthusiastic bout of cheering during yesterday’s game. Hey, you’re a soccer parent, that’s what you do.

5. They Know Everything There is to Know About Soccer

You might never have kicked a ball in your life, but you’re an expert when it comes to the rules of the game. You know everything happening in the national league, as well as, how your local team has been doing this season. You know all the lingo, can explain the offside rule without pausing to think and can hold your own in a sports bar. The other sports parents are the same. You all eat, sleep and breathe soccer for your kids, and that’s a part of why you all make such amazing soccer parents. So, now you know how to spot those soccer parents, go and find yourself some soccer parent friends to chat strategy with.

 

 

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For Athletes Time is Just a Number

Your parents are worried your increased interest in athletic pursuits will have a negative effect on your grades. You make the promise nothing like that will ever happen, but the nightly two-hour practices are eating into your homework time. What can you do to keep the promise to your parents?

You aren’t alone in this situation. The leap from childhood to the teenage years – includes a natural increase in the amount of homework you stash in your book bag. Around the same time in your life, you decide to ‘step up your game’ by trying out for stronger and more competitive athletic teams. You want to make the jump from the ‘recreational’ athlete to that of performing in the more competitive ‘select’ or ‘travel’ arena.

The twice-a-week recreational practice and once-a-week game schedule has now become a week filled with four practice days and two game days – or even a complete weekend of multiple tournament games. It’s tough to scrounge up enough time to finish your schoolwork, and when you do sit down and open a text book you find yourself so exhausted you can’t even concentrate.

Professional basketball coach Pat Riley once commented, “There are only two options regarding commitment. You’re either in or you’re out. There’s no such thing as life in-between.” This is exactly true of your life right now. This is where you must make a commitment to following some simple rules of time management. You have already decided you want to better yourself as an athlete by increasing your activity in a sport, but you cannot take this time from your study time.

There will always be some consequence to every decision you make, that’s why it’s important to think about them carefully. You know you have to get started on researching a social studies report, but the report isn’t due until next week. So, you log into the GroupMe chat set up with your friends. A quick ‘check-in’ results in eating up 45 minutes. Those minutes are lost. You cannot get them back. Using them to start your research would definitely lower the stress level affecting your school performance next week. By making such a simple adjustment, you have initiated a time management strategy. The mature decision not only helps you keep a promise to your parents, but it also lets you keep the even bigger promise to yourself. Besides, if you are productive you may also get those 5 minutes of chatting you promised yourself, but as a reward!

Successful coaches are the ones to make every minute of practice time matter. The same can be said of successful student-athletes. Develop a weekly and daily ‘quick assessment’ of all the school work you are facing. For example, you have a social studies report but still have 10 days before it is due. If this week is light on math and science homework, set up some extra time to start your project. If you let “light” homework weeks be too relaxed you will end up with all-nighter the next week. Take advantage of the natural balance in your homework and be as productive as you can.

There may be times when it may just seem impossible for you to fit everything into your life. If it comes down to a decision between your school work and athletics, there really isn’t a decision to make. Education is priority one. Let your coach know of your situation as soon as possible. Some coaches may tell you skipping practice will result in not starting or not playing the next game. The coach may not want to make such a harsh decision but he also must consider your teammates who are not missing a practice, particularly if there is a set of team rules, which cannot be ignored. However, most coaches are very understanding and if they see you are a hardworking student-athlete they will give you a chance to make it up to the team.

The Importance of Having an Emergency Action Plan

team-sports-and-child-devSynopsis: In the middle of practice the weather changes suddenly as the clouds darken and the winds kick up, bringing in a pop-up thunderstorm. As most of the parents have dropped off their kids for practice, there are not enough vehicles available to seek shelter. Coaches need to be prepared to handle the unexpected; be it a change in the weather, a freak injury to a player, or other surprise scenarios.

Coaches signing on to lead an athletic team generally know what is required to prepare a team to compete. Just as they may have to bone-up on some sport-specific fundamentals or seek for pointers on player treatment and handling parental issues, they should also research methods of developing a coach’s Emergency Action Plan.

Medical Emergency

Creating an emergency medical form to be filled out by parents, and to be present with the coach during all practices and games, is a ‘must do’ for anyone coaching youth athletes. The form should include:

  • The address of the child/parents
  • Home and mobile phone numbers of the parents (and at least one other relative/contact)
  • A list of any prescription medications the child is taking
  • A list of known allergies (food, bee sting, medications, e.g.)
  • A list of medical conditions (asthma, e.g.)
  • A section that permits the coach to transport (by car or official emergency vehicle) to the nearest hospital.

If there is more than one hospital locally, include a section, which allows a parent to list the preferred hospital (for insurance purposes, e.g.). Coaches should make copies of each form, keeping the original at home and placing the copies in a container to carry with them.

Medical Kit

Bumps, scrapes and contusions are a part of most athletic events. Coaches can prepare a medical kit (purchasing a trainer’s kit or a fishing tackle box, e.g.). Stock the kit with the basics: anti-bacterial ointment, adhesive bandages, elastic tape, elastic bandages, scissors, eye wash, hydrogen peroxide, petroleum jelly, non-stick gauze pads, gauze and medical gloves.

Players with asthma should have their inhalers readily available. Coaches need to be aware of the medical instructions for each player’s inhaler use and closely monitor players are using inhalers in accordance with the prescription directions.

Weather-Related/Unexpected Emergencies

Coaches need to be familiar with the surroundings of practice and game facilities. If the sport is indoors, it is a good idea to know the building evacuation routes available. If possible, have a diagram of the routes available (place it in the container with the emergency medical forms). If the team is a visitor, the coach needs to ask the home team coach about emergency exits, etc. If the sport is outdoors, develop a plan for evacuating the field when rain and thunderstorms occur.

Note: Players should be taken to the safest area possible at the first sign of lightning or the first audible thunder clap. There are also weather apps available for cell phones which provide lightning detection.

All coaches and parents should be aware of the evacuation plan. Take ten minutes of practice time to discuss these plans with everyone. It is a small price to pay for the safety of everyone.